French Guiana is an overseas department of France, located on the northern coast of South America. Like the other DOMs, French Guiana is also an overseas region of France, one of the 26 regions of France, and is an integral part of the French Republic. Like metropolitan France, its currency is the euro. The prefecture is Cayenne.
Though sharing cultural affinities with the French-speaking territories of the Caribbean, French Guiana cannot be considered to be part of that geographic region, with the Caribbean Sea actually being located several hundred kilometres to the west, beyond the arc of the Lesser Antilles.
French Guiana consists of two main geographical regions: a coastal strip where the majority of the people live, and dense, near-inaccessible rainforest which gradually rises to the modest peaks of the Tumac-Humac mountains along the Brazilian frontier. French Guiana's highest peak is Bellevue de l'Inini (851 m). Other mountains include Mont Machalou (782 m), Pic Coudreau (711 m) and Mont St Marcel (635 m), Mont Favard (200 m) and Montagne du Mahury (156 m). Several small islands are found off the coast, the three Iles du Salut Salvation Islands which includes Devil's Island and the isolated Iles du Connétable bird sanctuary further along the coast towards Brazil.
The Barrage de Petit-Saut hydroelectric dam in the north of French Guiana forms an artificial lake and provides hydroelectricity. There are many rivers in French Guiana.
French Guiana was originally inhabited by a number of indigenous American peoples. Settled by the French during the 17th century. Its infamous Île du Diable (Devil's Island) was the site of penal settlements from 1852 until 1951. A border dispute with Brazil arose in the late nineteenth century over a vast area of jungle, leading to the short-lived pro-French independent state of Counani in the disputed territory and some fighting between settlers, before the dispute was resolved largely in favour of Brazil by the arbitration of the Swiss government. In 1946, French Guiana became an overseas department of France. The 1970s saw the settlement of Hmong refugees from Laos. A movement for increased autonomy from France gained some momentum in the 1970s and 1980s.